David M. Rubin
CAN WEAVER MEET THE MASTER'S DEGREE REQUIREMENT?
DAVID M. RUBIN
South Carolina law requires that whoever is elected to be Superintendent of Education must possess "a master's degree and substantive and broad-based experience in the field of public education including, but not limited to, service as a classroom teacher, principal, other school or school district administrator, school district superintendent, or other education policy making body at either the state or local level..."
Under this law, Republican candidate Ellen Weaver does not qualify to run for the job. As we shall see, she CANNOT qualify before the vote on November 8. Here is why.
She has never been a classroom teacher, principal, school administrator, superintendent, or the member of any educational policy making body. She has argued she is qualified by virtue of her experience as a political appointee to the South Carolina Education Oversight Committee. But this is not a policy making body. It is simply advisory. Weaver has no credential in the education field that meets state law.
But, this being South Carolina and Weaver being a Republican, let's assume her "experience" on the Education Oversight Committee is deemed acceptable. That leaves the master's degree requirement. And here the problems get really serious.
Weaver says she is enrolled in the master's degree program in Educational Leadership at Bob Jones University in Greenville. (This was her undergraduate alma mater.) She says she started the program this past spring and that she will have earned the degree by October, before the vote.
According to information publicly available online, the program requires completion of 11 courses (33 credits). All courses are offered online in asynchronous fashion, which means Weaver can watch the lectures, read the books and complete the assignments at her own pace within the time frame of each semester.
Giving her the benefit of the doubt, let's assume she enrolled for the Spring Session B 2022 semester. This ran from March 7, 2022 to April 30, 2022. Then let's assume she is now registered in the Summer, 2022 semester, which runs from June 6 to July 23. Then she will register for the Fall Session A 2022 semester, which runs from August 29 to October 15. Then she is out of time. The next semester doesn't end until December 10, well after the election.
Weaver has, therefore, given herself three semesters in which to complete 11 courses. The website says the expectation is that students will take between a year and 18 months to complete the program. Weaver has given herself from March 7, 2022 to October 15, 2022, a bit more than seven months. At the same time, she will be campaigning across the state for Superintendent. Surely to complete all of this she must be Wonder Woman.
Because not all courses are offered every semester, I plotted which courses she would have to take in each session in order to finish.
She must have already completed four required courses last spring (EAS 670, ED 638, ED 661, and ED 690). She would now be enrolled in at least four more courses (three of which are EAS 663, EAS 676, EAS 678). The fourth course would be one offered in the summer and also in the fall semester, giving her some flexibility.
She would then take in the Fall A semester the two courses remaining that she did not take in the summer, along with one more crucial course. This is the final course, the so-called capstone course: EAS 695: EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP ACTION RESEARCH PROJECT.
Here is the description of that course from the online catalog: "Supervised experience under an experienced school administrator. The student is expected to demonstrate the implementation of leadership skills (tied to coursework taken in this program) to an approved project in a K-12 educational setting. A Leadership Portfolio will also be submitted. This is the capstone course and should be the last course taken."
The catalog states this course begins August 26 and ends on December 10, after the election. Clearly that doesn't work for Weaver. She said she would complete the program in October, before the election.
Further, we are supposed to believe that while she is taking two other courses this fall and campaigning, she will be interning in a supervised setting with an experienced school administrator. Please.
It seems clear that the only way Weaver can earn this degree before the November election is if Bob Jones University waives all sorts of requirements, such as the internship/portfolio capstone. The University could argue, disingenuously, that Weaver's "distinguished" reputation as an educator made this course, and perhaps other courses, superfluous. It would be a lie, but what is the cost to the University?
That question would be put to the University's accreditation group: the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The accrediting association would not look kindly on one of its member institutions playing fast and loose in conferring its degrees. Would Bob Jones University take such a risk for Weaver?
Voters deserve answers from Weaver NOW on how she intends to complete this degree. Voters should not be forced to go to court in late October or, worse, after the vote (should Weaver win) to demand an inquiry into how this degree was conferred.
Weaver has never explained how she can possibly complete this degree before the election. Bob Jones University can properly assert that it is bound by privacy laws not to discuss any student's progress toward a degree. But that doesn't prohibit Weaver from coming clean with voters.
So, Wonder Woman, how are you going to become legally qualified to hold the office of Superintendent of Education?